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How do police spot drunk drivers?

Many people wonder how police catch drunk drivers in Canada. Here are the some of the most common ways:

  1. Roadside stop/check and RIDE programs. The Supreme Court of Canada authorized police to conduct roadside stop points to check for drunk drivers. Normally drivers are required to roll down their window and speak to the police where police will look for signs of impairment. This often includes the odor of alcohol and dilation of the pupils (in reaction to them shining a flashlight in your eyes). Police will tend to select locations that have both a high level of traffic and have obstructions to make it hard for drivers to see the stop point in advance. This usually means on the opposite of an overpass (which obscures the view of the stop point until it is too late).

  2. Calls to police. Many drunk drivers are caught as a result of intoxicating themselves in a public place and leaving only to have the people call the police and report their car/license plate. This happens quite often. If you drink in bars and drive home you are at a high risk of getting caught by way of someone calling the police on you.

  3. Police watching parking lots of bars and drinking establishments. Police will often patrol bars and nightclubs watching the parking lots for drunk drivers and pulling them over once they get behind the wheel. Sometimes these officers are under cover or in unmarked cars. Again, the individuals get caught by drinking publicly then driving.

  4. Driving to the liquor store drunk and purchasing alcohol. Employees of liquor stores often call the police on customers who drive to the store drunk. Security guards, and sometimes police themselves, watch parking lots for intoxicated drivers (particularly on Friday and Saturday nights).

  5. Extreme intoxication. While someone with a .09 BAC would be relatively hard to detect based on driving alone, those with extremely high blood alcohol levels will often swerve, cross lines, drive at an unusually slow or fast rate of speed, and make obvious driving errors that will make them targets to be pulled over.

  6. Self reporting. This often goes along with extreme intoxication. An individual chooses to pull over and (foolishly) call the police to report themselves for DUI. This is common for younger adults who try to “do the right thing”. Unfortunately, they end up with tremendous costs and lifelong consequences for this act of righteousness. Doing the right thing is pulling over and leaving the vehicle to be picked up later. Calling the police is foolish.

  7. Family members and friends reporting it to the police. Never assume those you are drinking with will not call the police on you. Many people, even close friends and family members, will watch you get in your car and drive away drunk and then anonymously report you by calling 911. They don't want to confront you, but have no problem seeing you charged.

  8. Being pulled over for other infractions. If you’re drinking and driving, don’t even think about using your cell phone, speeding, or running a red light. It’s this type of stupid, unnecessary behaviour that causes you to get pulled over and subjected to searches for DUI.

If you would like to see information on who are the hardest drunk drivers to catch, click here.

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